Directed by Dennis Iliadis
This is a very hard film to talk about. On one hand you have a bunch of surprisingly talented actors (Tony Goldwyn, Aaron Paul – Jessie from “Breaking Bad” for those who don’t know – and the always fantastic in everything he’s in, be it for one line or less, Garret Dillahunt) and on the other hand you have a film that deals heavily with the brutal rape of a seventeen year old girl with about the tact of a sledgehammer. “The Last House on the Left” is a horror film, first and foremost, so to expect it to address that subject with anything more than using it at shock value, would be, I suppose, to expect too much. I find rape a very hard thing to watch in films, but at the same time it troubles me that I can pay so little care towards the brutal murder of other characters in a film (this one included) and yet almost always be offended by rape. Both are horrible crimes and it’s hard to argue which one is worse than the other (if indeed, either one can be considered worse). I suppose it’s mainly because I’m afraid the filmmakers are using rape (as they use most sex in films) to titillate its male viewers, more so than disgust. But I suppose violence is used to do just that as well is films like this. (And the circle goes on and on and on…)
So dropping the heavy stuff, how exactly is “The Last House on the Left” as a horror film? Pretty effective over all. As I mentioned before, the acting is all pretty top-notch, especially from Dillahunt (and later on Goldwyn). Sara Paxton also turns in an intriguing performance as the aforementioned seventeen year old girl. The horror is effective and doesn’t attempt to lower itself to “mock scares,” it lets its over the top and disturbing violence do all of its work for it. And make no mistake, no one dies easy in this film. Almost every death is slow, drawn out, and disturbing as all hell. It’s a vicious, vicious film, a “horror” film in the sense that we are not used to seeing. It’s sort of like “Funny Games” if you upped the body count and the gore, and removed all of the artistic nuances that makes “Funny Games” so great. But that isn’t to say that “LHOTL” isn’t a decent horror film, it is. Especially if you can sit through it. My only real criticism of the film is of the characters played by Tony Goldwyn and Monica Potter. They both do an admirable job with what is given to them, but if more time had been spent at the beginning of the film developing their characters a bit, it would have benefitted the movie overall. (Especially as far as catharsis goes, which this film really needs.)
If anything, the film shows that at one point, Wes Craven was one crazy mother fucker. Coming up with ideas like this one. I’ve never seen his original, so I can’t compare the two, but if it is anything like this remake, I can only imagine how audiences in the 70’s reacted. I’m hoping that with “Scream 4” he’s going to redeem himself a bit for his past decade or so of work (though I did appreciate parts of “Red Eye”) but I’m not holding my breath.
I should also note that the trailer is very spoiler heavy for anyone actually planning on watching the film.